The Washington Post
November 4, 1998
CIA Won't Name Hondurans Suspected of Executing Rebel

                  By Vernon Loeb
                  Washington Post Staff Writer
                  Wednesday, November 4, 1998; Page A02

                  The CIA has refused to give human rights investigators in Honduras the
                  names of Honduran military officers suspected of executing a leftist leader
                  in 1983, reigniting a debate waged earlier this year in Congress over
                  legislation that would have compelled disclosure by the agency even if it
                  meant revealing the identity of confidential intelligence sources.

                  In a newly declassified report on "selected issues relating to CIA activities
                  in Honduras in the 1980s," the CIA makes repeated references to military
                  officers it believes tortured and executed Jose Maria Reyes Mata, a
                  Cuban-trained doctor and guerrilla leader, during a counterinsurgency
                  operation in 1983.

                  But agency censors blacked out the names of those officers throughout the
                  230-page document, written by the CIA's inspector general. The report
                  was turned over Oct. 22 to the Honduran human rights commissioner, Leo

                  Reyes Mata "was captured . . . and executed by [deleted] while in custody
                  of the Honduran military," the report states in one of two dozen redacted
                  references to the officer or officers suspected of the execution. A Capitol
                  Hill source who has seen both the original secret report and the
                  declassified version with redactions said the name or names appear to have
                  been deleted to protect intelligence sources.

                  Despite those deletions, the report acknowledges for the first time that the
                  CIA knew at the time of "death squad" activities linked to Honduran
                  military personnel with whom the U.S. government had close ties. The
                  report also acknowledges that CIA officials in Honduras failed to fully
                  reveal the extent of those human rights violations to agency headquarters or
                  to Congress.

                  Valladares and human rights researchers at the Washington-based
                  National Security Archive who are working with him to obtain and
                  catalogue declassified U.S. documents have credited the agency with
                  finally disclosing its overall knowledge of human rights abuses in Honduras
                  during the 1980s, when the United States was underwriting military efforts
                  against leftists in neighboring El Salvador and Nicaragua.

                  The researchers say the inspector general's report, even with entire
                  sections redacted, is a treasure trove of new information that should help
                  Valladares' work in Honduras. His investigation into 184 documented
                  disappearances in the 1980s thus far has led to charges being filed against
                  20 military officers.

                  The name or names of those suspected of executing Reyes Mata,
                  according to Susan C. Peacock, a research fellow at the National Security
                  Archive, "would be a major clue that we could follow up on. Reyes Mata's
                  family is still alive, his mother and sisters and brothers. And they are keenly
                  interested in his fate."

                  A U.S. official responded that the declassified CIA report had provided
                  Valladares with detailed information about the circumstances of Reyes
                  Mata's execution and, while not naming names, specifically referred to a
                  special forces "field commander" thought to have been responsible. The
                  official also said the United States would provide "amplifying information
                  on the incident through government-to-government human rights channels."

                  Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) said last week that the CIA and
                  other U.S. government agencies have an "obligation" to turn over "all
                  relevant information that may shed light on an individual's involvement or
                  responsibility for the murder or disappearance" of Reyes Mata and others
                  killed in Honduras.

                  Dodd noted that the CIA would have been forced to reveal the identity of
                  those it suspects in Reyes Mata's execution under legislation he
                  co-sponsored with 20 other senators, including Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), the
                  ranking Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

                  The legislation, narrowly defeated in the Senate in September, would have
                  established an expedited declassification process for documents sought by
                  human rights investigators in Honduras and Guatemala and created a panel
                  to review declassification decisions made by the CIA.

                  The bill also would have prohibited the agency from withholding
                  information about an individual's involvement in human rights abuses "solely
                  because that individual was or is an intelligence source."

                  CIA Director George J. Tenet lobbied strenuously against the bill, which
                  was opposed on the Senate floor by Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.),
                  chairman of the intelligence committee. "This amendment . . . is woefully
                  inadequate in protecting intelligence sources and methods and, as a result,
                  will chill current and future sources from providing the CIA with critical
                  information," Shelby said.

                  The inspector general's report into human rights abuses in Honduras was
                  ordered in 1995 by then-CIA Director John M. Deutch following a series
                  of articles in the Baltimore Sun alleging that the CIA had trained and
                  equipped a unit known as Battalion 316 and ignored evidence of the
                  battalion's involvement in death squad activities.

                  Much of the report concerns what the CIA knew, and what it officially
                  reported to headquarters and Congress, about the deaths of Reyes Mata
                  and an American priest, the Rev. James F. Carney.

                  At a time when Honduras became a central operating area for U.S. military
                  and CIA efforts to topple the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua and defeat
                  leftist insurgents in El Salvador, Reyes Mata led a band of 96
                  Nicaraguan-trained rebels and Carney, their unarmed chaplain, across the
                  Nicaraguan border and into the Olancho region of Honduras, hoping to
                  ignite an insurgency inside the country. But the Honduran military routed
                  the invasion.

                  The declassified inspector general's document cites conflicting intelligence
                  reports about Carney's fate, some of which concluded that he had been
                  executed, and some of which reported that he was sick and weak during
                  the incursion and died of starvation in the jungle. "The precise fate of
                  Carney remains unknown to CIA," the report concludes.

                  The report leaves little doubt, however, that Reyes Mata was executed by
                  Honduran military officers. It cites an earlier intelligence report that
                  "specifically named [deleted] having killed Reyes Mata some days after his
                  capture in Olancho."

                  Peacock said the deletion of the officer's name is one of numerous
                  troubling redactions. She noted that an entire section on CIA accountability
                  and most of a section on the possible involvement of a CIA employee at a
                  hostile interrogation session had been blacked out. "Summary execution is
                  not a legal way of dealing with political prisoners," Peacock said. "We've
                  been assured that this document was given heavy scrutiny to give us as
                  much information as [the CIA] could. I'd like to assume that our
                  intelligence committees are on top of this and asking the hard questions,
                  but I don't think that's happened."

                  An aide on the Senate intelligence committee who has reviewed both the
                  classified and declassified versions of the inspector general's report said
                  that Shelby, the committee chairman, is "very pleased with the
                  declassification process. We feel it was done in concert with protecting
                  sources and methods and [provides as much information] as possible."

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